T.J. Auclair is a Senior Interactive Producer for PGA.com and has covered professional golf since 1998, traveling to over 60 major championships. You can follow him on Twitter, @tjauclair.
Imperial Headwear redefines its classic look
Series: Golf Buzz
Published: Wednesday, October 02, 2013 | 7:42 a.m.
You might not realize it, but there’s a good chance you own at least one hat -- if not several -- from a brand known as Imperial Headwear.
Imperial, you see, has been a leader in the headwear industry since the company started nearly 100 years ago, in 1916. Imperial began as a dress cap manufacturer in Denver, Colo., and then uniform headwear, and even military hats.
“The reason Imperial is here today is because it has pioneered the sports headwear industry and found a very nice niche in golf,” said David Shaffer, Director of Marketing for Imperial Headwear. “We were one of the first companies to recognize and capitalize on the growing popularity of sports headwear in the baby-boom era. Being first to cater to the golf market was a huge advantage in those booming economic times. In the 1980s, it was estimated that Imperial sold 70 percent of all golf caps.”
Imperial hasn’t stopped, either. Just over a year ago, the company was acquired by Paramount Apparel International, which also owns the brands Oarsman, American Dry Goods, Midwest Graphics and Kid N’ Me.
With Paramount Apparel International stepping in, rather than make drastic changes in an effort to get younger and hipper, the classic look Imperial had become known for -- its wheelhouse -- was simply redefined.
“Just before Paramount purchased Imperial, they had decided to take the brand in a whole new direction,” Shaffer explained. “Imperial had always been known as a very upscale, traditional country club hat brand. In 2012, their executives decided to move away from this niche and attempt to make Imperial more of a younger, modern, consumer hat brand. They changed the logo, website, catalog, etc. They even added a flat bill cap to the line.
“I don’t think it was much of a surprise that many of these changes were not so well received by our customers and sales reps (including the flat bill style which is being dropped from the line for 2014),” Shaffer added. “So when Paramount took over, we decided to reverse this whole new direction of the brand. Right about now, you will start to notice our move back to the old Imperial script logo and branding. Our website is being re-designed as we speak for re-launch in January. Our marketing collateral and product trim is reverting to more of a classic, timeless look. We believe this is the niche that has made the brand prosper for decades and where we need to be moving forward. It’s our heritage and luxurious imagery that holds all of our brand assets.”
On a recent trip to Bandon Dunes, we noticed all the on-site pro shops were loaded with Imperial headwear. You can find a lot of those great hats selling now on the Bandon Dunes website too.
Imperial prides itself on the reputation of having the best fitting hats in the industry. To stress that point, the company’s new tagline is, “The Best Fit in Golf Since 1916.”
Imperial is also a brand that has a strong commitment to the PGA of America and its members.
“Through our support of PGA Golf Professionals with PGA Golf Retirement Plus program, Imperial is able to give back to the organization that has helped our company grow into what it is today,” Shaffer said.
“Our supply chain – including domestic embroidery capabilities – is also second to none,” he said. “Imperial’s ability to turn orders around quickly and accurately in large volumes is extremely rare. It’s common for Imperial to replenish product in a PGA Tour merchandise tent on a daily basis. We do inventory at the end of the day and have new product delivered in time to stock the shelves before the gates open the next morning. Some of the largest licensed professional sports cap companies don’t even have the quick-turn capabilities we do today.”
To learn more about Imperial, click here.
Follow T.J. Auclair on Twitter, @tjauclair.